Six employees test positive for COVID-19

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Attendees take pictures of the Crew Dragon spacecraft during the NASA Commercial Crew Program (CCP) astronaut visit at the Space Exploration Technologies Corp. headquarters in California.

Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

SpaceX has had six employees test positive for COVID-19 as of Monday, according to an internal company memo seen by CNBC.

Elon Musk’s space company has limited the number of employees physically working at its facilities, like others in the industry. But SpaceX operations have continued after it was deemed “mission essential” by the Department of Defense. A Pentagon letter allows companies working national security contracts to continue work, even if state governments enforce shelter-in-place orders.

The SpaceX memo noted that one of the employees recently identified has self-isolated. The company has also previously directed employees who may have been exposed to self-isolate, a precautionary measure it took after the company’s first employee case last month. 

SpaceX did not respond to CNBC requests for comment.

NASA, like the Pentagon, has also determined that its upcoming SpaceX Demo-2 launch is mission essential. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told CNBC last week that, despite the coronavirus crisis, his agency and SpaceX are still aiming for late May to launch Demo-2. The mission will be the first time SpaceX sends astronauts to space.

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from historic launchpad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Feb. 6, 2018.

Thom Baur | Reuters

Making ventilator parts

In the meantime, Musk seems to have changed his view on the coronavirus in recent weeks. At the beginning of last month, he tweeted that “the coronavirus panic is dumb,” but since then his companies have begun to help develop products needed at hospitals to fight the virus. Tesla engineers revealed a prototype ventilator made from electric vehicle parts on Monday and SpaceX two weeks ago began producing hand sanitizer and face shields, which the rocket company is donating.

SpaceX partnered with Medtronic to help the medical device company make a key part of its ventilators.

Medtronic chairman and CEO Omar Ishrak told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” that his company’s partnership with SpaceX is “extremely important,” as the rocket builder is using its “expertise in valve production” to make the ventilator components.

“SpaceX is helping us multiply the number of such devices,” Ishrak said.

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